With softball playoffs in full swing last week, Muscatine Special Olympics (MSO) got in on the fun not once but twice. Hosting both their annual softball skills tournament and scrimmage with the Muscatine Fire Department (MFD), the MSO’s athletes had opportunities to showcase their sportsmanship and involve the community in their summer fun.
Over the weekend, MSO held its yearly softball skills tournament on July 13th at Kent Stein Park. Similar to Triple A ball in the major leagues, MSO Director Jason Miller described softball skills as the starting place for Special Olympics athletes interested in perfecting their skills before playing competitively. “Softball Skills helps prepare athletes for the next level playing on team. [It] offers training and competition in the areas of throwing, fielding, running bases, and hitting. Athletes are divisioned based on age and ability level. We have stations set up for each one of these areas and there’s a point system for each station. After athletes complete all the stations the total is added up and ribbons are awarded based on that total.”
A regional tournament, Miller proudly shared that athletes from outside of Muscatine traveled here to test their skills against those of MSO’s athletes. Additionally, the tournament gave local fans and volunteers an opportunity to show their hospitality to all the athletes. “This is one of a few local tournaments we host in Muscatine, and this year we had well over fifty volunteers from Muscatine watching and cheering on the athletes,” reported Miller.
MSO’s athletes did well during Saturday’s competition. Of the more than thirty Muscatine athletes who competed, ten earned scores high enough to send them to the State Tournament, along with the Muscatine Warriors, on August 3rd in Ankeny. In addition to their weeks of preparation, Miller felt that having a supportive local audience made all the difference for his athletes. “They look forward to showing off their skills in front of a home crowd,” he said.
With the excitement from the softball skills tournament still fresh in everyone’s mind, all three of the MSO’s competitive softball teams had a chance to showcase their skills for a home crowd in their scrimmage against the MFD. A tradition since the mid 1990’s, Miller values the MFD taking the time to help the softball players develop their skills and have a good time. “We’re always looking for competition opportunities or a chance to scrimmage people instead of just having practices all the time. . .. Nate Paxton with the local firefighters’ union in Muscatine has been recruiting players the last four years. He really understands how important this is to our athletes and how much we look forward to playing them every year.”
Always a challenging match for both teams, the MSO softball players and the MFD firefighters gave it their all during the scrimmage on July 24th. A close game throughout, MSO managed to gain the upper hand, beating the MFD 14-13. Regardless of who wins and loses each year, Miller always finds the MFD scrimmage an enjoyable game for everyone involved. “It’s really just been a fun and friendly traditional rivalry. The guys in blue love giving our athletes a hard time and they in turn love giving it right back.”
With their State Tournament right around the corner, the MSO’s ten competing softball skills athletes and the Muscatine Warriors have another exciting event coming up for them. As their recent tournament and MFD scrimmage made clear, these athletes have what it takes to win.